Great science fiction can widen our horizons, and challenge our assumptions about space, time, and humanity. Movies in particular allow the wonder and imagination of sci-fi storytelling to take flight. By combining dynamic, breathtaking visuals with imaginative storylines, science fiction films can be truly transportive—even if you're just streaming at home from the comfort of your couch.
Check out our recommendations below for 17 of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix. From the horrific to the heartwarming, these sci-fi flicks dare to reimagine life as we know it.
This post will be updated periodically to reflect changes to streaming.
This cult classic combines hard sci-fi with existential horror, and the result is truly unforgettable. The year is 2035. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is in the home stretch of a three-year solitary mining job on the dark side of the Moon, funded by Lunar Industries. Communication with Earth is spotty, and Sam is eager to return home to his wife and daughter and finally have some company besides GERTY, the lunar base's artificial intelligence (voiced by Kevin Spacey). But as the end of Sam's mission approaches, he begins to hallucinate, which leads him to injure himself in a lunar rover crash. When Sam regains consciousness, he's back inside the base, and GERTY advises him to await a rescue mission. Sam is suspicious, and begins to uncover truths about Lunar Industries that are truly unsettling.
A Netflix original, this Australian zombie movie is a smart addition to the genre that will thrill fans of The Girl With All the Gifts or Train to Busan. Andy (Martin Freeman) and his wife are attempting to outrun a zombie pandemic via boat. But when disaster strikes, Andy must make a grueling, days-long trek across the outback in order to bring his infant daughter to safety. Andy's odyssey coincides with the journey of Thoomi (Simond Landers), an aboriginal tribe member whose father has recently been infected.
To say much more about the plot risks spoiling some of Cargo's appeal. Suffice to say, if you're a fan of zombie movies that delve into the emotional weight of an outbreak, you'll love this tense, unique addition to the genre.
RELATED: 13 of the Best Zombie Movies Ever
This Academy Award-winning epic 2005 remake of the 1933 classic will satisfy all your cravings for giant creature action. Set in 1933, the Peter Jackson-directed film follows an expedition to Skull Island in the South Pacific. The voyage returns to America with a giant gorilla named Kong in tow. But when "the Eighth Wonder of the World" is introduced to New York City, actress Ann Darrow and playwright Jack Driscoll will have to reconsider what it truly means to be a monster.
Found footage is a genre usually reserved for the likes of horror movies–and Europa Report, though technically a sci-fi thriller, is indeed horrifying on many levels. Told entirely through footage “recovered” from the Europa One mission, we learn the story of its crew: six astronauts who journeyed to one of Jupiter’s moons looking for sources of life, only to find themselves in dangerously over their heads.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
In the third installment in the Terminator franchise, John Connor (Nick Stahl) is still living in L.A. after the death of his mother Sarah Connor. Reluctant to accept his responsibility for the future of humanity, John lives a vagabond lifestyle, in constant fear that the war which was prevented in 1997 will still come to pass.
When Skynet sends a new female-coded model of Terminator to the present to kill human Resistance members, John and his future wife Kate (Claire Danes) are protected by a reprogrammed Terminator who reveals to them that Judgement Day is rapidly approaching.
If you want to add a little German expressionism to your night in, Metropolis is the movie for you! In all seriousness, this 1927 film had a huge impact on the aesthetic of science fiction as a whole, and is worth checking out if only to see iconic imagery that continues to influence the genre today. The story is set in a future dystopia, and follows the attempts of a working-class girl and a member of the bourgeoisie to bridge the city's stark class divide.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, The Road follows an unnamed man (Viggo Mortensen) and his unnamed son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic America. The boy was born shortly after an unspecified event brought civilization to its knees. After the boy's mother disappeared, the boy and his father only had each other. Together, they travel across the bleak landscape, evading other survivors and scavenging in ruins for food.
Heralded by critics as Netflix’s first great film and from the mind of Snowpiercer’s Joon-ho Bong, this emotionally wrenching drama doubles as an environmental morality tale. Okja is a thoughtful, visually awing, and perpetually relevant criticism of our food systems that’s delivered through a relationship between genetically modified pig Okja and her young owner. Forewarning: watching will probably make you experience every emotion ever.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rogue One follows a ragtag group of rebels as they join forces to stop the construction of the destructive Death Star. The epic space opera was critically praised for its acting, writing, and special effects, and its messages about resistance and hope make this one of the franchise’s best showings.
Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow
In this alternate history “gearpunk” film, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie star as Earth’s last defense against flying robot attacks. While the story may not be Oscar-worthy, the film’s blend of live-action and CGI help make this piece of World War II historical fiction a compelling case for genre-mashing.
The Truman Show
This surprisingly haunting movie stars Jim Carrey as everyman Truman Burbank, who enjoys an idyllic existence in the town of Seahaven Island. But when Truman begins to find clues everywhere that his life in Seahaven may not be as simple as it seems, the truth comes out: Truman is actually the unwitting star of a 24-hour reality television program that is broadcast around the globe. The entirety of his 30 years of life have been orchestrated to make him a compelling and captive subject for TV, and escaping his role as reality star may cost Truman his life.
A Netflix original from Moon director Duncan Jones, Mute is a cyberpunk mystery set in future Berlin. Alexander Skarsgard stars as Leo, a bartender whose throat was damaged in a childhood accident. Leo is intent on finding Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), his missing partner, and he'll comb through as much of the seedy underbelly of the high-tech city as he needs to do so.
Jones has described Mute as a "spiritual successor" to Moon, but unfortunately the new film isn't as smart or emotionally affecting as its predecessor. Still, it's worth a watch if only for the undeniably impressive, Blade Runner-reminiscent visuals.
Is Aeon Flux a 'good' movie, in the traditional sense of the word? Sadly, no. But if you're in the mood for sci-fi that's silly but flashy, it's worth watching if only to remember that Charlize Theron showed everyone she could kick butt long before she played a deadly spy in 2017's Atomic Blonde.
Based on an animated TV series from the early '90s, Aeon Flux is set in 2145. In 2011, a plague eradicated much of humanity; the survivors live in Bregna, a city-state governed by scientists. Theron stars as Æon Flux, a member of the Monicans, a group of telepathically linked rebels ostensibly working to bring down Bregna's leaders.
It's a pity the movie doesn't have more to offer, given the talent of its star and its director, Karyn Kusama (Girl Fight, Jennifer's Body, The Invitation). But if you want an evening of stupid sci-fi fun, a visit to Bregna might be just what the dystopian doctor ordered.
The Iron Giant
A mix of traditional and computer animation, The Iron Giant became an instant hit when it landed in theaters during the summer of 1999. It’s not hard to see why. Based on the touching Ted Hughes 1968 novel The Iron Man, this Cold-War story follows the friendship between a young boy and a massive iron giant that falls from space.
World of Tomorrow
In this irresistibly cute and poignant 16-minute short film, one three-year-old girl is paid a visit by her much older future self. Communicating with her clone from 227 years into the future, the young girl’s journey explores life's constant balance between sadness and salvation, loneliness and joy. It's a disarmingly emotional story set against incredible animation by Don Hertzfeldt, who also wrote, directed, and produced the short.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The Guardians of the Galaxy are back, and they're bigger a-holes than ever. In this sequel to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, families reunite, with cataclysmic consequences. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) finally meets his father, but the reunion is stranger than he could have anticipated. Meanwhile, the feud between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) comes to a violent head.
Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea might not be cinema at its most refined, but it's still as fun as it was when this sci-fi thriller first hit theaters in 1999.
A team of scientists searching for an Alzheimer's cure have been experimenting on Mako sharks at an underwater laboratory. But when one of the test subject sharks kills a researcher, Dr. Susan Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) admits to increasing the size of the sharks' brains in order to harvest more valuable proteins from the test subjects. As the underwater station begins to flood, the scientists must face monsters of their own creation: super-smart sharks with a taste for vengeance.
If you're craving a night of hard sci-fi and compelling filmmaking, this might not be the best pick. But for a fun night in, Deep Blue Sea is just the right amount of ridiculous.